As 2014 begins its second week, Eurasia Outlook returns. In the months ahead, we will focus on the issues that are likely to shape the future of Eurasia.

Among them:

  • the growing international tensions which accompany the rise of China. The seemingly trivial Sino-Japanese dispute over a string of rocks in the East China Sea is not that important per se, but for what it reveals: Beijing's growing self-confidence and Tokyo's fear of Chinese domination of East Asia. The simmering Sino-Japanese conflict stokes nationalism in both countries. It already involves the United States, which finds managing China from the position of a superior power increasingly more challenging;
  • the situation in and around North Korea where Kim III is consolidating his grip on power. If the recent purge of Kim's uncle points to the weakening of Beijing's influence in Pyongyang, managing NK-related crises in the future looks even more difficult. The Korean Peninsula is the most dangerous potential seat of military conflict in 2014 anywhere in the world;
  • the increasingly messy situation in Afghanistan which will see a change of command in Kabul in the Spring and a withdrawal of at least the combat forces of the US-led coalition by the end of the year. This will be, in fact, the end of an era begun with the ouster of the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban will not return to power, certainly not immediately, but the situation in Afghanistan will probably become more chaotic, while a new power balance is being established within the country and Afghanistan's competing neighbors seek to adjust to a post-American Afghanistan;
  • the fate of the negotiation process between Washington and Tehran in 2014 will determine the geopolitical future of the Middle East. A general compromise on the Iranian nuclear issue would lead to a kind of US-Iranian interaction in the region which would upset the Israelis, the Saudis and some other Gulf states. Yet, a more normal relationship with Iran would help the US in its effort to stabilize the Middle East at the time when the continuing upheaval in the Arab world may undermine Washington's Saudi and other Gulf allies. Conversely, a failure to reach accommodation in 2014 might put the US and Iran back on a collision course;
  • Vladimir Putin's ambition of creating a Eurasian Union will lead to the signature of a union treaty in 2014. However, the shape and format of that union are yet to be decided. How far will integration reach among the three countries which originally formed the Customs Union: Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia? Armenia is likely to join them very soon, but how long will it take Kyrgyzstan to accede? Most important and intriguing of all, what about Ukraine? President Viktor Yanukovych seems to have cast his lot with Moscow, but will he honor his commitment—and will he be able to hold on to power? The political crisis in Ukraine continues, with the presidential elections, scheduled for early 2015, already on the horizon;
  • the past year has seen a series of domestic upheavals in Turkey, which raise the question about the future of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP party, in power since 2002. Turkey also faces the need to readjust its foreign policy, which has met with a number of challenges recently, particularly in Syria and Egypt. Ankara has a very important role to play in one of the world's most volatile regions, and upgrading its strategy there will be a key factor for ending the war in Syria, preventing the collapse of Iraq, and consolidating Iran's engagement with the outside world;
  • as Europe prepares to mark the centenary of the war which forever destroyed its balance of power system and ushered in the Old Continent's geopolitical decline, the European Union will be grappling with a set of economic, political and ideological challenges. In 2014, a new leadership team will emerge at the helm of the EU in Brussels, and the choice of personalities may again suggest the choice of policies. More important, will leadership emerge among the Union's member states? Will Germany, Eurasia’s other great power, alongside China and Russia, finally step into that role?
  • across Eurasia, domestic developments in all countries will often impact decisively on their foreign policies. Eurasia Outlook will be watching the international implications of the coming change of governing party in India. We will look for signs of transitions in Central Asia's biggest countries, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where the incumbent rulers, in power for two decades, are inevitably walking toward the exit from the political stage. We will look at Russia, beyond the Sochi Olympics and the G8 summit which it will host: as the country faces a multitude of challenges, decision time is coming up in a number of key areas, above all, economic policy.

As in 2013, Eurasia Outlook will offer its readers a range of views and perspectives, not always in agreement among themselves, but hopefully worth the time spent on reading the blog. We look forward, of course, to your comments and criticisms. Happy New Year to you all!


  • Dmitri Trenin